Sometimes I think I misnamed this weblog – it might have been more correctly called Jools Procrastinates – not Jools Pontificates – although I do that too. I was wandering around the house today trying to settle on where I should start with my day’s work – there being several urgent possibilities but none that shouted – “Do Me First” or if they did, I wasn’t listening.

Cardboard wallet of Ian Bland's Angel in Reverse

Cardboard wallet of Ian Bland's Angel in Reverse

Instead my eyes were drawn to a CD lying discarded on my coffee table. The new CD by Ian Bland called ”Angel In Reverse”. It’s the third CD that Ian has produced that I have been involved in. The launch has been delayed until November but I’m not going to let that stop me telling you about it.

I’ve read articles written by designers and other creative folk who express opinions on mistakes that freelancers make and how to deal with clients. While I don’t disagree with their comments – they’re not always appropriate for the situation at hand. I’m not saying that Ian is difficult exactly, though he does have a vision that his designer has to work within – did I hear you say “Control Freak”? My job was to get the vision out of his head and onto paper via my camera and computer. Here is a taste of how it worked and some of what I have taken away from that process.

The CD in question had a tentative title for quite some time before the product was realised. Anyone who knows Ian Bland, even just a little – will know that “Angel in Reverse” does have a ring of truth to it. Convincing Ian though reminds me of pushing a very large rock up a very large hill.

Who is this Ian Bland person anyway?

Who is this Ian Bland person anyway?


Ian in the interim took to exercising his camera and flooded our shared Dropbox with the results. These pictures ranged from shattered glass to travels with Ian, from cherubs to tiles and textures of weathered buildings. Not satisfied, even more pictures found their way into our shared Dropbox. Not one of which was used. Emails and phone calls followed – treatments tried and rejected.
Shattered glass door by Ian Bland

Shattered glass door by Ian Bland

Were the cherubs too ecclesiastical? Would the appearance of his own likeness on the cover scare away his potential audience? These questions and others were the basis for endless discussion. After several lengthy delays and much thought – Ian had an idea. This one would supersede all the previous ones that both he and I had, and so we ran with it.

Cherub photo by Ian Bland

Cherub photo by Ian Bland

Actually he’d had a collection of ideas and they needed to be brought together. First, the deliveries from Ian began to dribble in – a few at a time. A man’s watch, an envelope containing a lock of fine hair, a dusty twist of frayed rope, antique hand restraints, road maps so fragile with age that they happily shredded as they were unfolded and a battered photo of Ian and his dad. Still the items kept coming – some used in the photo shoots, some not. I never appreciated what a hoarder Ian was, nor how useful that would now prove.

I set up my portable photographic studio in the lounge room. Repeated dismantling and repacking later I learned my lesson and left it set up until after the project went to the printer and I was certain that Ian couldn’t make any further changes.

Some of the type samples we explored for the lyrics

Some of the type samples we explored for the lyrics

The next thing was to agree on a printer and, since custom die-cut packaging was never in the budget – our options were limited and of course each printer we contacted worked to a completely different layout template. Meanwhile we went through the selection trials for a suitable typeface. StarBabeHMK had the winning combination of attributes, we both agreed on it, it was legible at small sizes and it was free.

I concentrated on the layout for the sixteen page booklet first. Ian Bland’s poetic volubility left me in no doubt that getting all those lyrics to fit into thirteen tiny pages would be anything but straight forward.

Alternative journal cover treatment

Alternative journal cover treatment

The cover for the booklet was where I expected to really make my creative mark. I had assembled a journal cover from photographic stock that I had taken over the years – I was very happy with the result, but, Ian wanted – something else. So the cover was redone using an old bookkeeping journal that Ian had sent in one of his mystery packages. The cardboard wallet likewise underwent uncounted revisions and variations pretty much until the day the artwork went to the printer.

Inside the cardboard wallet for Ian Bland's Angel in Reverse

Inside the cardboard wallet for Ian Bland's Angel in Reverse

Now that the project is finished I can view it all analytically. I enjoyed doing the artwork for this album. I can see the effort that both Ian and I put into it and I can see the flaws and missed chances too. I guess my ambivalence is showing. In any case an opportunity to work with my camera or a reason to muck about in Photoshop is not to be dismissed. As is finding a solution for issues presented by print media that are distinct from those I encounter in web design.

Here is what I learned from this project.

  • You can never check anything too many times.
  • Don’t be afraid to be assertive – that’s what you are being paid for.
  • Finally this quote sums it up for me: “Don’t try to create and analyse at the same time. They’re different processes.” The late John Cage.

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